Monday, August 25, 2008

A successful Sunday...

Although Sunday did not play out exactly as I had planned, it was nonetheless a resounding success and my daughter and I had a wonderful day of it. We left Orleans by way of the 17 at about 1030hrs. By the time we found ourselves approaching West Island Montreal, it was already well past noon. Actually it was closer to 1300 or 1330 hrs. We decided we would stay on the 40 instead of heading South to join up with the 20, which would have led us to Île Perrot where my Mum lives.

I called up my sister on her cell to advise her that we would now be stopping by on our way out of town instead. We followed the 40 until it turned into the Metropolitain Expressway, that elevated horror show which rockets traffic over the North End of Montreal, on their way to the Hippolite -Lafontaine Tunnel in Montreal's East End, where it then dives under the St.Lawrence River, funneling traffic to the South Shore and on to Québec City and all points East. My daughter gamely negotiated traffic as I attempted to serve as her navi-guesser, guiding her from one lane to the next as we approached our exit.

Before long, we found the off ramp leading to St.Laurent. By now, she had become conversant with the fact that the use of turn signals in Montreal is simply a suggestion. The true name of the game is to keep the other drivers guessing about your next move. We opted to skip over one block to the West and ended up on St.Urbain. This street and it's surrounding neighborhoods, figure prominently in the works of Montreal's Mordecai Richler, one of our most outspoken and venerated late Canadian authors.

This area of the city simply oozes history and culture. It is a tangible and visible confluence of Montreal's diverse ethnic roots. The long, graceful and sometimes spiral wrought iron staircases, are not only iconic but are virtually unique to the older sections of Montreal, Verdun, Côte-des-Neiges, Westmount, LaSalle... You'll not find these anywhere else in North America. Once we figured ourselves far enough South, we headed East along one of the small cross streets which then cut across St.Laurent. Our first try, we noted that we were not far enough South. So we carried on until we found another small side street heading South. We then headed West, crossing over The Main yet again, in a bid to end up back on St.Urbain where we could once again head further South. It is a maze of one-way streets which we navigated patiently, despite our hunger which by now had reached epic proportions!

Despite my daughter burning a red light (not recklessly, mind you... but just as casually as you please...), we managed to find a 'parking space' on Rachel Street, fairly close to our final destination. I say fairly close because at this point, St.Laurent was closed to vehicular traffic for about 2 blocks North of Schwartz's. The street was filled with vendors and tents and people. They were milling about in the thousands, as far South as you could see along the length of St.Laurent.

We strolled along through the vendors stalls, right down the middle of the street. It had rained briefly as we were preparing to leave Ottawa, but the temperature was now a beautiflly sunny 30 degrees. Within 10 minutes we were coming up on "The Sign". That hallowed orange, white and black sign which told us we had arrived! Of course, the cue outside was enough of an indication. This day, they had actually set up a tented area outside the restaurant on the street itself, for those who might choose to enjoy their smoked meat 'al fresco'...

We had not been in line 10 minutes, when true to form, one of their waiters emerged outside, walked right up to us and said: "For two...?" I nodded and he said: "Follow me!" He spun on his heel and charged for the door as we passed probably a dozen people in line before disappearing inside. Once inside, we were surrounded by that familiar din, which can only be described as organized chaos. There was a snag, however... The two promised seats were no longer vacant. Gasp! How could this be? I had never experienced this type of situation here, ever... No worries, we were herded into a corner and asked to not move. That's akin to standing in the middle of Sherbrooke Street and being told the same thing. With the wait staff and dishes of food flying from one point to the other, there's no way We were going to step out into that! My daughter took the occasion to indulge in a washroom break...

Soon, our patience was rewarded and we found ourselves being seated with 4 other strangers. I was elated. Finally, here we were. Sitting down at Schwartz's, about to get a decent feed of smoked meat on. Happy days!! We discussed the menu briefly and were in agreement with what we would order. Our waiter was very soon back with us, pressing us for our order. It wasn't long in coming: "Two smoked meat platters, medium, with two sides of coleslaw and dills!" He confirmed that we wanted the meat 'medium' and headed off. Both of us were ravenous by this point. Just prior to our meals arriving, the rest of our table left, making room for a group of four from Connecticut. They were an amiable bunch and we bantered back and forth with them.

Then, with a fanfare provided by the Heavenly Hosts and angels singing in the background, our platters arrived. It doesn't matter how many times I go there, the anticipation and the elation when the food finally arrives (and the wait is never long...), is always the same. This time however, I got to share it with my daughter. She seemed well into the spirit of things and as we dug into our meals, I was pretty sure I was witnessing yet another convert to the "Power of the Schwartz", if her eyes rolling back in her head were any indication of how much she was enjoying it. (Yeah...just like a shark...).

I'd say that we ate our fill, but I'd be lying. We ate more than our fill and still had to get the leftovers bagged up for transport. I believe my little girl used the term 'Uber', so I think it was a hit with her. We waddled out into the afternoon sun at about 1500hrs. "If you hear screaming", she confided "that's just the stitching in the seams of my pants!". I laughed... No Bonsecours Market for us today. It was considerably later than I had originally planned on (by some 3 to 4 hours...). We slowly made our way North up 'The Main', casually inspecting the many wares which were for sale. Finally we reached Rachel Street, where we had managed to park. We found my daughter's car and were happy to discover that she had not incurred a parking ticket, for parking in what was not even a parking space, technically.

We slowly wound our way East for a few streets until we hit St.Denis, which we then took South. St.Denis leads you straight through the heart of Montreal's Latin Quarter. Again, a plethora of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and pubs line the street, on both sides. Eventuelly we hit a sign for the 720 West, which leads you to the Ville Marie Expressway. This marvel of engineering allows you to travel under the city, from the downtown are to the Avenues in Lachine. The very next thing you know, you're heading westward along the 20.

I phoned my sister to advise her of our progress and give her some sort of idea about out ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). Little did I know that on weekends, the 20 narrows down to one lane, where it crosses the Galipeau Bridge at Ste.Anne-de-Bellevue, leading into Île Perrot. The resulting backlog of traffic, means that it will take you about 30-45 minutes to cover the last 2.5kms. As we finally made it across the bridge, we shot by Perrot Blvd. I called my sister so she could guide us in on our final approach.

"Where do I turn after we cross the bridge?"

"Right at the lights when you come over the turn left on Perrot!"

"Crap! We just blew right past there...".

"Okay... no sweat! Just keep on going along the 20 until you come to the next set of lights and turn left...".

"Okay...we just passed those too! Wait! There's another set coming up... Hon, get into the left hand lane, we have to turn left here...".

"Okay... we're at De l'Île...".

"Holy went far!!"

"Don't talk to me, I ain't drivin'...I'm a gimp, remember...?"

"Okay... turn left down De l'Île and keep going until you come to a stop sign... You'll then turn left onto 5th Avenue".

"Right...okay. Got it. We're at the stop sign. Turning left...".

"Keep going until you come to Don Quichotte...".

"Is that the opposite of Donkey Open...?"

"Very funny... just keep going until you come to your second set of traffic lights..."

Eventually we were guided in for a landing at my Mom's new digs. We had a very enjoyable visit with my Mom, my sister and my niece. We could not tarry long. but we ended up staying until at least 1730hrs, by which time our timetable was a bit out of whack, for getting my little girl back home for 1830hrs. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a casual trip back, opting to get off at exit 17, which would bring us back to Orleans the very same way we left. We pulled into my driveway at precisely 1930hrs. I noticed that my better half's van was not in the driveway. Either she had yet to return from work or she already had and proceded out to supper.

I was happy to get home as it had been a longish day, albeit very fun. My daughter still had a 45 minute drive ahead of her, to make it home to Winchester. I rested for a spell in our living room, watching some mindless show about who knows what kind of animals... At 2019hrs, I phoned my little girl's cell, to see how she was doing. As it turned out, she was just turning onto her road and was within sight of her home. I thanked her again for such an enjoyable day and told her I hoped that she had had as much fun as I did. I promised her that we would do this again, but next time we would have her other sister along. When those two get together, it's like back when they were 6 or 8 years old. They're a real pair of goofs and pretty entertaining. :)

Yes... Sunday was definitely a very fun, very enjoyable, very successful day!

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